I picked up this book from a special table in Waterstones aimed at displaying feminist reads, and I couldn’t go away without buying something! I have wanted to read this book for a while, after hearing about the Everyday Sexism Project online, and agreeing with its aims and views. I finished the book last night, and I found it both an inspiring and revealing book with regards to the position of sexism in our daily lives.
The Everyday Sexism Project, which this book is based on, was started a few years ago by Laura Bates, in order to give women the chance to voice their experiences regarding sexism in their everyday lives. It aims to place the focus on the everyday instances which have a greater impact on women than many realise, and by using quantitative data, Bates shows that, while these experiences may not be considered as important as the greater concerns of the feminist movement, they need to be recognised, and everyday sexism cannot be allowed to continue, as it has a lasting impact on the lives, dreams, careers and relationships of women.
The book was split into several chapters, each covering a different sector or area of discrimination, such as the media or the workplace. Bates starts each section with key statistics, and throughout the chapter she relies on the entries that have been submitted via the Everyday Sexism Project, using these testimonies in order to back up her points regarding sexism and its impact. Laura Bates is making the key point throughout this book that sexism is based on learned behaviour and attitudes, and this is why it is such a difficult subject to combat.
I think the section that affected me the most was the section called ‘Girls.’ This covered the impact of ingrained mentalities on younger girls and teenagers, and this section made me so sad when I realised that the mentality of inferiority that is felt by girls begins at such an early age, and the superiority expressed by boys is encouraged even earlier, with these mentalities greatly affecting both boys and girls as they go through puberty and into adulthood. Statistics such as the fact that 33% of girls aged 13 to 17 have experienced some form of sexual abuse really bring home the impact of mentalities and abuse, even in young girls.
The fact that so many girls are forced to obsess over their weight and body size also shows the impact of the media and attitudes on young girls and their self-esteem. I think this section affected me so much because I have a young sister around this age, and so it angers me to think that ingrained mentalities within society might make her doubt herself, or even lead to her pursuing something that society has told her she should.
I also thought the statistics and stories on sexual abuse- from groping in a nightclub to rape- were horrifying and important to recognise. I learnt things I never knew before- such as the criteria for what counts as sexual abuse (if someone touches another person sexually and there is no reason to believe that person consented, this is sexual assault) and the unbelievable statistic that 1 in 3 women in the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
I thought it was really important that Bates drew attention to such a sensitive topic, and she used the voices of people who came to her through the Everyday Sexism Project in order to show the reader the amount of people affected by this kind of abuse, however ‘minor’ their experience. I also found it interesting that someone had submitted an experience of cat-calling from my University, although my University has always seemed incredibly on top of everything related to consent and ‘slut-shaming.’
Another important message to take away from Bates’ book was the idea of ‘victim blaming’, and the amount of accounts from people who felt they couldn’t come forward because they believed they would be blamed for what they wore, or how they acted, or who they were with, was truly shocking. The fact that woman after woman recounted experiences where their families had brushed aside their claims of rape, or had even blamed them, was unbelievable. It made me feel so lucky to have a family that I know would take any accusation I took to them seriously.
Although I found this book depressing, harrowing and frustrating at times, I think it is an incredibly important piece of feminist literature, and I liked how Laura Bates ended on an inspirational note. I felt so empowered after finishing this book. After all the horrific entries, and the devastating experiences of women all over the world, I liked how Bates brought the reader back to the affirmation that ‘enough is enough.’ Women are speaking back, and taking matters into their own hands. Everyday instances of sexism are going to be difficult to tackle, and while people continue to see cat-calling or groping as all harmless fun, the issue will never be overcome.
But, with the growth in books such as this, and the growth in support (from both men and women) for the movement, this strand of feminism will continue to be tackled, until women don’t feel fear when they walk down the street alone at night, or when they go to a club. When they enter a boardroom full of men, they won’t fear their voice will be lost, and when they take their children to the supermarket, they won’t fear the influence of ‘lads mags’ or page 3. Women are surrounded by sexism so much so that sometimes we just try to block it out, but if we take a stand against it, we could change mentalities for the next generation.
Overall, I found this a very interesting, insightful and important read, and I look forward to reading more non-fiction in the future, as this is a genre I rarely explore. Laura Bates has written several other books which I look forward to reading in the future.
Have you read ‘Everyday Sexism’ by Laura Bates? Have you heard of the project, and does this sound like your kind of book?
Let me know any thoughts you have in the comment section below.
Happy reading x